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Choosing The Right Guinea Pig

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published November 4th 2012
The Best Breeds and Sellers
Choosing The Right Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs make great pets, especially for children, or those who don't have the time to take dogs for a walk. I've had guinea pigs all my life, and they bring so much joy, but it is important to know which is the best type for you.

guinea pig
Freya gets a cuddle

Choosing You're Guinea Pig

There are several breeds of guinea pigs, but the ones you are most likely to find at your local pet store are:

guinea pig
Twitch, my American Short Hair

American Short Hair - Has a silky coat with short-medium length fur.

guinea pig
Twiglet, my Abyssinian

Abyssinian - Their coat is made up of six to eight rosettes, which twist round, creating a rougher fur.

guinea pig
Freya, my Crested

Crested - They have one rosette on the top of their head, which can be either white or self-crested (the same colour as the rest of their coat).

Other Breeds - Others include the Rex and the Teddy, which both have coarse, shorthair that stands on, and the Himalayan, whose fur is like that of the American, but has the same markings as a Siamese cat. Any of these would make a fantastic pet.

Any of these guinea pigs would make fantastic pets. There are several other breeds, but they need a lot more care. Peruvians, and Silkies both have long fur that falls to the floor and in front of their eyes, while the Texel, has very curly fur. All of these need a lot of grooming, and are usually only bought from specialist breeders by people wanting to do shows.


Guinea pigs are social animals, and if they do not have any companions will become lonely and depressed; it is therefore important to have at least two. The safest combination is to have all females, but you can also have male and females living together as long as you get the males neutered (or are intending on having them breed).

If males are born in the same litter, bought or brought up together, it is also possible to have male guinea pigs living together (although neutering is still recommended). Do not, however, introduce a new male guinea pig to you already have as they are most likely to fight.

As an alternative, you can keep rabbits and guinea pigs together, but you must be careful. Upon introduction make sure the guinea pig is at a safe distance as some rabbits may kick and hurt the guinea pig. It is best to introduce the rabbit when it is still a kitten, that way it is small and won't hurt them. Once the rabbit has grown up, it will be familiar with your guinea pigs and they should get along fine. This is what we did when we had a rabbit and guinea pigs. They got on really well. My rabbit, Josh, loved to snuggle up with them and gave them lots of affectionate licks.

Where To Buy Your Guinea Pig

Pet Shop - This is the easiest place to buy a guinea pig, but also probably the most risky. Most of the employees are there just to work behind the counter and no little about the animals they're selling. Guinea pigs in pet stores are usually confined to small cages until they are sold. You might want to buy them just to get them out of those horrid little homes, but it only encourages pet shops to buy more. There are, however, some good pet shops. Pets At Home, have staff who know about the animals, and give the guinea pigs a larger space to move around. If you choose to buy from a pet shop, then they are probably the best to go for. When buying from a pet shop you will probably get a young guinea pig, but depending on how long they have been in the shop, they might have matured, which is not ideal when it comes to bonding.

guinea pig
Frith was tiny when we got her, but she soon grew

Breeder - When buying from a breeder you can be confident that you are getting a healthy guinea pig with a good temperament. The breeder will also be able to give you advice on caring for your new pet. When going to a breeder, you will most likely get a guinea pig that is eight weeks old (the youngest they are allowed to be sold at), which makes them perfect for bonding and building up trust. Here is a good website for finding breeders.

Rescue Home - So many pets are bought with the best of intentions, but the owner later finds that they were not prepared for the responsibilities involved in caring for a pet. Many guinea pigs end up in rescue homes and desperately need a home to go to. The good thing about getting guinea pigs from a rescue home is that they will often be free. They will, however, most likely be mature guinea pigs by this point, and there will be little way of determining its age. Be sure to check on the health of the animal before you committing to a rescue pet. Here is a good website for finding rescue homes.

Understanding Your Guinea Pig

Just like humans, guinea pigs have different personalities.

guinea pig
Freya gets a cuddle

Petting - while some love to be cuddled, others do not. Unfortunately you cannot tell which type you are going to get when buying them, but the more handling they have, the more accustomed they will be to your presence, and less nervous when held.

Some guinea pigs do not like their nose being stroked, their chins tickled, or ears scratched, while others do not mind it at all. It won't take long to figure out if your pet likes it or not because they will shake you off with their head. If you persist, you might even get a nip.

Noises - A guinea pig's squeak varies in a number of different ways. When they are excited or curious, they might weak. This is a short, but continuous a high pitched sound usually heard when food is coming or they are greeting a friend. Similar, but higher in pitch, and more stressed is a shrieking sound, which they make if they are scared, anxious, or hurt. When a guinea pig is happy, they will make a pleasant purring.
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Why? Guinea pigs bring a lot of joy to your life
Cost: Looking after any pet can be pricy, but they're cheaper than looking after a dog
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